Next week, my family and I are PCSing to Fort Jackson. In this process, as most of you have experienced—there is a moment of purging some of the materials that you have collected over the time. The other morning, I was looking at our house and thinking about how it is going to be with a fresh start. I am going to miss the people here—some of those who have already moved. Some of those who will remain after I leave. But, when I move, I will start all over—new house, new location, new friends.
What does it mean to start over?
This morning, we are looking at the story of Nicodemus for John 3:1-17.
Jesus tells him that he “must be born again.”
Sounds like a new start to me. But, what does it mean? How do we we truly have a fresh start and become “born again?”
We see in this passage that Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews (v1). He was considered a teacher (v10). And he came to Jesus by night to ask some questions. (v2)
Here is a man—who was educated, respected, but he had something missing in his life.
And Nicodemus had questions that all of his education and experience just could not answer.
This morning, some of you are asking questions that are outside of what you can handle. You are hurting—but there seems to be no solution to your heart ache—there is no medicine. We can fix a broken arm. We can heal a sickness. We can cure many diseases. But we have no medical cure for the broken heart.
The Bible says that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night . He didn’t want anyone to know that he had questions. He didn’t want anyone to know he had problems. Is this you?
I was watching Thomas the Tank Engine with my children the other night. And the story of the day featured the square boxy engine who was scared to go into the dark forest.
He was an older engine, mature and trusted—but he was scared. Thomas asked if Toby would like to go with him, but Toby declined. He didn’t want everyone to know that he was scared. He was old and mature—and he didn’t want to be known as an Old Scaredy Engine.
We all get that way. We are scared for anyone to know that we have questions.
But the truth is; is that we all have questions.
And today you have questions.
Nicodemus saw Jesus do miracle after miracle. He saw him heal the sick and cause the lame to walk. He sees that there is something different about Jesus—he seems to have the answers that he is looking for. So he comes to Jesus while it was dark
Nicodemus said to Jesus
… “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2 ESV)
Nicodemus is asking himself. “Could this be the answer that I’ve been looking for?
If he is truly for God—surely he has the answer to my problems; he can bring light in my life; he can show me how to eternal life!”
He connects the dots to place Jesus as someone he can trust—someone who has come from God. Nicodemus needed God sized answers to his questions. If he was going to move forward in his life—he needed answers from God.
So he goes to Jesus.
And Jesus tells Nicodemus.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 ESV)
Nicodemus is confused.
What does this mean?
Nicodemus said to him(in verse four),
… “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4 ESV)
I appreciate Nicodemus’ honesty in this question. Sometime informed spiritual mind we lose the importance of this question.
How is one born again?
How can a man be born when he is old?
Earlier this year little Kenna Moore was born weighing only 9.6 ounces.
Her mother said; “She weighed less than a can of Coke,”
Today, the baby that doctors gave little chance of survival, weighs almost 4 pounds…and she’s expected to go home with her parents…in the next few weeks.
We have the medical knowledge to help a tiny little baby survive, but I have never seen someone physically born again!
So, rightly, Nicodemus asks the question?
This is not a flippant question—but a question that Nicodemus is asking someone whom he has just identified as being from God. This is not the accusing Pharisee trying to trap Jesus. Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night—he wanted answers!
So, Jesus answers him in verse five;
… “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6 ESV)
Here Jesus makes the distinction of what he is talking about.
He says what is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of Spirit is Spirit—you must have both!
Jesus speaks here first of being born of water.
There are many different theories out there about what he means by the phrase “born of water.” I chose to believe one theory by A.T. Robertson that defines water as
“meaning the birth of the flesh coming in a sac of water in contrast to the birth of the Spirit.” (http://www.studylight.org/com/rwp/)
Basically, given the context of the passage, Jesus is talking about physical birth.
Jesus tells us that it is not enough just to be born once—you must be born again!
One of the most common answers given to the question of whether people will spend eternity in heaven or hell is that they are a good person.
It is not enough to just be a good person—you may be a good football player; but if you sit in the stands the entire game, you haven’t played the game.
You don’t get points for just showing up!
Jesus says; “you must be born again!”
You must be born of water—and spirit.
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:7-8 ESV)
He says do not marvel! You don’t have to understand.
Our world has to understand everything. We say if we cannot prove something, then it must not exist. But you cannot prove everything.
Being Born Again is an act of Faith!
Hebrews 11:1 says:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV)
Faith is believing in the unseen. We are not born again physically—but spiritual. It is a birth of Spirit—of those things that are unseen.
And today, you must be born again! It is an act of Faith!
Nicodemus then said to Jesus, “How can these things be?”(John 3:9 ESV)
It still doesn’t make sense.
It is a puzzle. It is a mystery!
Every now and then, I get the urge to play a video game. I am not very good—in fact, I’m terrible. Especially now days—they have all kinds of different games and I can’t figure them out!
But occasionally, I get lucky and make my through to the next level.
The interesting thing about video games is that many of them are a puzzle—and once you figure the puzzle out, you move to the next level. The good thing for me is that once you figure the puzzle out you can redo the earlier levels faster because you already know the solutions to the puzzle.
This is the same way with life and faith. We know there is a solution out there—we simply have to find it! And when we look back we see God’s hand was in it all.
We’ve got to trust in the unseen!
We must have faith!
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (John 3:13 ESV)
Jesus has been to the final level—he has made it all the way through to the end—he know the solution to the puzzle. We can trust in him!
And he says in verse 14;
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15 ESV)
The solution is Christ.
And whoever believes in him may have eternal life!
This is the answer!
How does one become born again? How does one become born spiritually?
They lift Christ up! They believe in him.
Each of us must place our trust in him to receive eternal life.
Have you done this?
All of us are sinners. We have all said things, thought things, and done things that disrespect God. This is sin. And we deserve death and hell because of our sin. And we are all sinners by our very nature and by choice.
We are separated from God because of that sin.
Christ died on a cross to pay the penalty of our sin—to make it possible for us to approach God. By accepting and believing in Jesus—we have a spiritual birth. We start over with our spiritual life when we accept him.
I want to ask you a question this morning.
Have you been born again?
I’m not asking whether you’ve been to church or read the Bible or lived a good life.
I’m asking you—have you been born again.
Have you accepted Christ into your life—turned your life over to him—and followed him.
You have an opportunity this morning to be born again—right where you are.
If you have never been born again—if you have never truly committed your life to Christ—I invite you to do that this morning.
Right where you sit you can make a commitment to follow him.
I encourage you—that if you have made that commitment in your heart today that you come and tell me about it. Don’t let today pass without telling someone about your commitment.
The Bible says;
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.(John 3:16-17 ESV)
Today, you can be born again!
This sermon was preached at Memorial Chapel, Fort Lee, VA on 3 June 2012. All scripture marked ESV: The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.